Cubs

Jake Arrieta, Cubs continue to own Pirates

Jake Arrieta, Cubs continue to own Pirates

Are the Cubs in the Pirates' heads?

It's a question that has been posed by reporters the last two weeks and every time, Joe Maddon and Cubs players have brushed it aside.

Whether the Cubs have a psychological advantage over the Pirates or not, the simple fact of the matter is the head-to-head series has been completely one-sided after the Cubs picked up a 8-2 victory in front of 40,953 fans at Wrigley Field Saturday.

That's now five straight wins over the second-place Pirates to open the 2016 season, as the Cubs have built a sizable lead in the National League Central (nine games over the Pirates, eight over the St. Louis Cardinals, who play the Dodgers Saturday night in Los Angeles). 

In those five wins, the Cubs have outscored the Pirates 37-11.

"That's surprising," Jake Arrieta said. "But every game's a different story, really. We've fared well against them thus far, but we know the quality they have over there and that hasn't changed. 

"We've just been playing some good baseball. We've been throwing well. Bullpen's been great and obviously our offense has been doing their thing. You just want to see your guys stay as hot as they can for as long as possible."

Arrieta actually permitted the Pirates to score a couple runs, but still wound up with a mostly-dominant start, going eight innings and striking out 11 (six of the looking variety).

He seemed to lose things a bit in the fourth inning when he gave up three hits and hit a batter, leading to two runs. That ended Arrieta's streak of 26 straight shutout innings against the Pirates dating back to last September (and including that complete-game shutout in the one-game playoff).

After Arrieta walked Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke on four pitches in the fifth inning, Cubs catcher Miguel Montero went out to have a chat with the reigning NL Cy Young winner.

Montero thought Arrieta was getting too fine with his pitches.

"We had a little talk and I said, 'You know, just throw the ball, man. Just let it go. Let it eat. That's when you're the best,'" Montero said. 

Montero called some of those called strike-three pitches "Hall of Fame" caliber.

"When you catch Jake, you don't need to even be on the same page," Montero said. "Any pitch he wants to throw is gonna be a really good pitch because he's got plus pitches.

"As a catcher, you don't worry about him shaking you off or not because it's gonna be a good one."

The Cubs immediately bailed Arrieta out on Anthony Rizzo's three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning. 

Addison Russell stayed hot, chipping in a two-run shot of his own in the sixth inning. He now has nine RBI in his last four games and 13 RBI in his last seven contests.

Dexter Fowler delivered a bloop single to score Miguel Montero later in the sixth and the Cubs rallied for two more runs in the eighth on four straight hits to close out the scoring on the afternoon.

Arrieta is now 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 0.84 WHIP on the season.

Since the start of 2015, Arrieta has a ridiculous 0.75 ERA and 0.617 WHIP against the Pirates, striking out 60 and allowing just 28 hits in 60 innings.

Arrieta also became the first pitcher since 1893 to allow three or fewer runs in 28 straight starts. He has won his last 18 decisions and the Cubs have won his last 21 starts, which is a franchise record.

Despite Arrieta's ridiculous run, the Cubs actually see room for their ace to grow and improve.

"He's not been as sharp as he can be yet this year," Joe Maddon said. "I mean that. I'm not trying to be casual about it. He just hasn't been as sharp as he can be. There's another level of sharpness for him."

Montero agreed, though he also offered that Arrieta hasn't lived up to the absurd expectations that have been placed on him after last year's second half.

"He hasn't been as sharp as everybody wants him to be," Montero said. "Maybe he's thinking a little bit too much. He's trying to actually find his arm slot or make every pitch a perfect pitch, and that's pretty much impossible to do.

"... Don't worry about pitching. Just worry about throwing the ball. Because that's when he's actually getting in trouble - when he's nibbling and trying to be too fine with pitches. He doesn't need that. He can throw it down the middle and it's gonna be hard to hit it."

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Kyle Hendricks takes in a Blackhawks game with... Bastian Schweinsteiger?

A Cubs pitcher taking in a Blackhawks game in a suite is nothing special, but doing so with a World Cup winner is... different.

Kyle Hendricks was spotted by the cameras of Thursday's Blackhawks-Coyotes broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago. The guy he was standing next to was none other than Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, a World Cup with Germany and Champions League winner with Bayern Munich.

Hendricks is known for being reserved on the mound and in his interviews with the media. Meanwhile, Schweinsteiger was filmed yelling "Bear Down" in the hallway of Toyota Park after a Fire practice earlier in the day.

There's no telling what inspired Schweinsteiger to do this, but he has definitely embraced Chicago sports teams since joining the Fire in March of 2017.

Makes you wonder what Hendricks and Schweinsteiger were talking about. Best places to get brats in Chicago?

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...